A new era for an old favourite

10:10 AM Saturday September 13, 2014 Colin Taylor

Victoria Park Market has undergone a $20 million redevelopment.

Seventy stalls are available for lease in Auckland's Victoria Park Market, which has undergone a three-year refurbishment programme to return the historic complex to its retailing roots as a centre for local artisans and Bohemian-style stallholders.

"Vic Park lost its point of retail difference and some people said it had 'lost its soul'," says Leah La Hood, retail leasing specialist with Bayleys who has been seconded into attracting weekend stallholders back to the market.

"As a result, we're looking to reinvigorate the artisan element back into the retail mix. We're keeping the High Street retail brands around the outer premises, but melding those around the original heart of what was Victoria Park Market's essence."

The revamped Victoria Park Market will include street food sellers and arts and crafts stalls with a focus on New Zealand-made products or those true to their countries of origin.

La Hood was integral in tenanting the successful Ponsonby Central complex in what was previously a dilapidated warehouse space.

She says many Aucklanders surveyed about Victoria Park Market wanted to see a "hippie" stallholder element scattered around the cobbled lanes - creating a different experience from suburban malls.

The 70 stalls offered for lease are in the outdoor area of the complex. Food stalls cost $75 a day and food trucks $150. Craft, artisan and produce stalls range from $30 to $50 a day. The market will trade from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

La Hood says the "rebirth" of Victoria Park Market as a cottage industry arts and crafts tourist destination follows several years of stagnation after the historic red-brick venue refocused its tenancy profile on upmarket brands and high street retail fashion outlets.

"Site owners say the latest changes are just the beginning and layers need to be added - like a weekend outdoor market to create a vibrant hub."

The market's makeover has included considerable earthquake strengthening of the entire complex, as well as reconfiguring the retail premises and adding several hundred square metres of new floor space for food and beverage outlets on its upper levels.

It reopened last year with existing tenants such as Platinum Sports Company taking bigger premises and new tenants including Tom Tom, Libertine, Salash Delicatessen and Buttermilk Cafe joining the mix.

"We're bringing back that original feel of the market, in today's genre," La Hood says. "This is a chance for start-up companies to get a stall, be a part of an interesting community and to sell their dream."

Located next to Victoria Park, from which it gets its name, the complex is bordered by Victoria St West, Union St and Drake St.

Built 100 years ago, Victoria Park Market is the oldest example of Victorian industrial buildings still standing in the central city. The site was formerly a waste depot with an incinerator and the still-standing distinctive brick chimney employed to burn the city's refuse. The heat was briefly used to drive a power generator in the early 1900s and the complex encompassed stabling for horses, which hauled rubbish wagons.

The original Victoria Park Market was developed in the 1980s by Alistair Johnston, who took inspiration from "festival markets" in the United States, in which people traded from pushcarts. When it first opened the bustling marketplace attracted people in droves.

La Hood says Aucklanders express the same passion and sense of ownership about Victoria Park Market now as they did in the 1980s.

"Cook Street and Victoria Park were part of the first phase of markets in the region and were a huge draw-card for tourists and locals. In the past seven years we've seen the emergence of farmers' markets such as at Parnell, Matakana and Grey Lynn, and then night markets. This revitalisation of Victoria Park Market is the next evolutionary phase."

By the early 2000s competing weekend markets and changes in parallel importing regulations affected Victoria Park Market and it eventually closed.

"However, the precinct's $20 million redevelopment is now complete and incorporates already-opened dining options within a heritage setting," La Hood says.

She says determining the right mix of tenants and understanding what customers want are essential to the success of the revitalised market.

"All markets have a certain formula but the main thing is a good mix of hospitality and retail outlets - it's the correct mix that works," La Hood says.

"I want what everybody else wants for Victoria Park Market - a quality dining, shopping and market experience where energetic traders are doing their thing within a historic setting."